There has been some good news for advocates of Amendment 64, namely that the Department of Justice under U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (at least for now), is not going to stand against it.
Amendment 64, introduced and passed by a majority of Colorado voters last November, changes the states’ approach to marijuana regulation in a fairly substantial way. Instead of treating it like heroin or cocaine, marijuana will instead be regulated in a similar manner to alcohol and tobacco.
The DOJ, in a memo sent to federal prosecutors across the state, effectively declares that they will leave the regulation of marijuana, both medical and recreational, to state and local governments. This will be the case so long as they don’t violate a number of provisions, such as not distributing marijuana to minors and ensuring that criminals don’t use the law as cover for trafficking other illegal drugs.
While there is still a substantial chance that the government can walk back this declaration, the fact that they are choosing to leave this issue up to the states is a fairly radical step in government policy.
While this will indeed be a cause for celebration in marijuana advocacy and libertarian groups statewide, it’s still important to note that this measure isn’t a vote of approval from the feds.
As of yet, there aren’t any bills being proposed to make Amendment 64-esque policies at the national level, nor does this mean that the DOJ is endorsing Amendment 64. All they’ve really said is that they aren’t going to deliberately hamper efforts to alter marijuana policy at the state level.
At best, they’re just going to sit back and observe to see how this all plays out. At worst, they’re probably rooting for its failure so that they can re-assert control.
The United States is still a very long way away from any sort of “victory” in the War on Drugs. We’re still a ways out from effectively finding ways to combat illicit drug production and distribution. We’re also still apparently having fairly substantial issues with combating drug use by teenagers.
While there is cause to celebrate, as any change away from the unilateral actions of the War on Drugs is a good change, it’s important to remain skeptical. Technically, Amendment 64 has yet to take effect, and it is unclear as to how effective it will be once it does in fact take effect.
The kinks have yet to be worked out, and the first iteration of the new regulations isn’t likely to be perfect on the first go; government is anything but perfect with regards to implementing laws, after all.
Quoted in the Denver Post, Kevin Sabet a former official from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, stated that “This isn’t the end of the story. This is the beginning.”
This is a good first step, but there’s a long way to go.
Opinion Editor Caleb Hendrich is a senior journalism and political science double major. He, in fact, does not smoke weed, not like that’d matter now. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org